(First in a series)
I never knew my father to be drunk. Mother told me in 1995 that he began drinking seven nights a week soon after their marriage in 1927. I was born twenty some years later.
A fellow student provided my first clue to my father’s drinking behavior in second grade.
“Your father is nothing but an old drunk, like my dad.” He shouted.
“Don’t you say that about my dad! He is a good person.”
“I know all about him cause he drinks with my dad down across the railroad tracks.”
Whack! I put all my small weight into a good right to his chin.
At the time, I believed my stand was right. Today I know my father spent a great deal of his time drinking around our small town.
I recently visited the St. Stevens Hotel in Brocton, NY and had a White Russian, just one, in memory of my father. Sitting at the bar as he probably did those nights long ago, I felt my heart ache raw and savage. His presence swirled about my insides like the chickens in the farmyard when the boys cut their heads off, utter chaos, utter panic.
“Where did you go, Papa?”
I left my father there and got to the business of my post recovery life.
Janet Woititz in Struggle for Intimacy (Adult Children of Alcoholics series)
explained the beliefs I had internalized growing up in our family system and lived my life according to for many years. Though my father was only a portion of that family system, I begin with him because Struggle for Intimacy (Adult Children of Alcoholics series)
focuses on Adult Children of Alcoholics. I will also add that I became an alcoholic in later years.
Myths about me, and the direct affect on my life: This is not a direct quote, but my interpretation and application to me.
· If I love you, I will lose myself. In reality, I did not believe there was a “self” to lose. I was an empty bucket waiting for others to fill. Invisibility had been my survival tool for years. What eventually forced me to put my thinking in the terms of “losing self” was the absolute certainty that I was tired of getting colored with other peoples crayons. Every new friendship or relationship, however, sucked me into another whirlpool of another’s identity. Once I spent time living on my own, it became clear that I would always be absorbed by others. (I have since retrained my thinking)
· I knew as certainty that once people knew me, they would leave me. I knew it in kindergarten when Mrs. Furman who had delayed retirement to see the last DeGolier child through, humiliated and rejected me for not saying “Yes, Ma’am,” to a request. I hated the rest of my kindergarten year, and resolved to be perfect in first grade.
I remained haunted by this fear and applied it subconsciously to every situation, from the thirty-plus jobs I worked, neighbors in several dozen residences; I never went to the same hairdresser twice, except for a brief time in the early 80’s when my self-esteem had risen slightly as a single mother making it on my own.
Then there was dating. That is a book of its own. I had a firm belief that only a loser could love me, a fellow loser. You can guess how that turned out. I never entered a relationship without setting myself up for failure first.
It has been about 15 years since I read Struggle for Intimacy (Adult Children of Alcoholics series)
. And though integrating the information into my life took years longer, my appreciation for the book expands with time.
I highly recommend it.
This is the first in a series on this topic. I hope you will return.